I need a lesson on Wi-Fi Hotspot surfing...

Discussion in 'MacBook' started by MacLadybug, Oct 23, 2008.

  1. MacLadybug macrumors 6502a

    MacLadybug

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2008
    #1
    I posted the following question in the OS X forum and had 1 response. Either I am asking a stupid question (for which I apologize) or I posted in the wrong forum. Here's what I asked:
    My husband occasionally has PC flashbacks with our Macs. Although we have never had any issues whatsoever and our home network is very secure... when we travel he is very reluctant to use a laptop at a hotspot. Most hotels and cafes offer wifi now. I need some of you with tons of experience to explain to me... what really can happen? I understand that you shouldn't do banking at a hotspot. I've also heard that potentially when you are surfing the net, everyone on that network can see what you are doing or where you are going. How safe are our Macs? How much of this is true and how much is just paranoia? Does it apply to Mac owners? What are some safe guard for safe and healthy hot spot usage? I just got the Alum MB and passed my Blackbook to my husband and I'd like him to enjoy it when he travels and not be afraid to use it.
    __________________​

    So there it is. We are traveling more and staying in places that offer Wi-Fi so I have a concern about what can go wrong and what you can do to guard against it. Thanks for helping out.
     
  2. soberbrain macrumors 65816

    soberbrain

    Joined:
    May 9, 2008
    #2
    Not a security expert here. My personal opinion is that with any type of security, nothing is 100% safe, but you can practice safe behaviors to make the chances of theft (identity, personal belongings, etc.) less likely to happen.

    In using Wifi hotspots, I'll use an open network if really necessary (always making sure my firewall is up), but if I need to check my bank account I would prefer to use a network with some sort of security (WEP/WPA) or some sort of login (Less likely for the network to be a target since it's more work than an already open network) and reserve that to when I'm in my hotel room and not out in the open. (Less likely to create interest from unwanted people) Also, I wouldn't leave my laptop connected to the network unless I'm using it. (Less time for someone to try and gain access)

    Perhaps others can share their opinions and advice.
     
  3. skubish macrumors 68030

    skubish

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2005
    Location:
    Ann Arbor, Michigan
    #3
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU iPhone OS 2_1 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/525.18.1 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/3.1.1 Mobile/5F136 Safari/525.20)

    yes people on the same wifi can see what you are surfing. If it is http: they can see you. If it is https: they can't. WEP/WPA doesn't matter if they are on the same hotspot. If you are concerned about it you should setup a VPN while surfing on a hotspot. Google hotspot VPN and there are a lot of options.
     
  4. jdwingnut macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2008
    Location:
    In the Redwoods, California
    #4
    First thing I would tell you is, "Use your own common sense as a rule".

    Surfing on the web, albeit at home or through a public hot spot, is still connected to the same internet. You send the same data across it. What matters is where and how you send your data (see rule #1).

    Turn off file sharing in your System Preferences if you have not already. Make sure your Mac uses a password for your Admin account.

    Most importantly, be mindful of the websites you visit when sending personal data across them. If the site does not have a lock or start out with the HTTPS (the S meaning it is an encrypted site), DON"T send ANY personal information.

    There are other processes such as NAT that your data also goes through as it's sent out to the internet through the wi-fi's router. Basically NAT rearranges your IP signature when sending and receiving data. So again this is just one other way of securing your data as it's sent out into the wild.

    Yes there are ways in which someone can and could compromise your data, but if you look at your Mac like you look at the locks on your house, the two have a lot in common. Using common sense, we lock the doors at night, we also look to see who's at the door before we open it. These are both just common sense.

    Using your Mac is no different. Just be mindful of where you go and what you do with your Mac and you'll be just fine, whether at home or when traveling.
     
  5. soberbrain macrumors 65816

    soberbrain

    Joined:
    May 9, 2008
    #5
    Good point. I updated my Google settings a while back so it only connects via https when I visit mail.google.com
     
  6. MacLadybug thread starter macrumors 6502a

    MacLadybug

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2008
    #6
    My file sharing was on only for the computers on my network... but I turned it off anyway. Then I enabled Stealth Mode. Now if we can not see each other on my home network... does that mean on a hotel network no one could see me? Or will they still see where I surf? Sorry to be so stupid, but since I didn't do any banking on other networks I figured I didn't need to worry about it.
     
  7. Bryan Bowler macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2008
    #7
    Not to split hairs, but you are not totally safe when your in https on a public hotspot. Someone who really knows what they are doing can sniff the packet exchange when the https encryption request is made and then decipher the information exchange at a later time. I realize that it's a million to one shot that someone with this type of knowledge (and intentions) would be on the same hot spot as you at the same time, but I wanted to point out that it is possible.

    Bryan
     
  8. MacLadybug thread starter macrumors 6502a

    MacLadybug

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2008
    #8
    So Bryan do you use public wifi spots?
     
  9. Bryan Bowler macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2008
    #9
    I do, although I admit that I'm hesitant to do anything with my bank accounts in real public places, such as airports. But that's probably being a little paranoid on my part. I tend to make the exception when I need too.

    But for regular surfing, I use public wi-fi without any reservations.

    Bryan
     

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